Audiobook Review: Need by Joelle Charbonneau

needLet’s think about what happens when a social network puts out the ultimate question to high school students: “What do you need?”

Now, think back to what you thought you “needed” in high school, and imagine what you would have done to obtain it.

Need by Joelle Charbonneau follows a group of students at Nottawa High School when a new social network emerges call, “Need.” The website’s design is simple, asking the students only one question: “What do you need?”

After submitting their requests the students put in their classmate’s email addresses, and soon the network spirals into a tit for tat, where needs will only be fulfilled if the student can complete a task.

Kaylee Dunham has a very specific need, a kidney for her younger brother. Kaylee doesn’t believe that the social networking site can help, but it wouldn’t hurt to try.

I listened to this on a long flight home from a family vacation. It was a redeye flight and I was having trouble sleeping. The audiobook was great at catching my attention. It’s narrated by Therese Plummer and Laura Knight Keating and their voices are distinct enough, and had contrasting styles that held my attention.

In fact, I am glad I listened to this book instead of reading it, because I honestly don’t know if it would have held my attention with all the different narrative threads taking place in this book. There are so many narrators that it’s hard to keep track of each one. If I didn’t listen to this in a marathon I would probably have been lost between sittings as well.

As a whole, Need is that book that makes you remember how screwed up your priorities were in high school. I am going to get a little personal here, and say that high school wasn’t exactly the best time in my life, and reading some these student’s requests, or their “needs,” brought me back there a bit.

Some of these kids need “another week of winter break” or “a later curfew on New Year’s Eve.” These are things that are really inconsequential when you get older, but as a child they seem like the most important thing in the world.

While I wanted to shout, and rant, and rave about the characters and their stupid priorities, I also really like how this book distinguishes a want and a need, and really reinforces what a need is.

The very first chapter defines exactly what a want and a need is, and it’s displayed on the website:

WANT: A desire to possess or do something. A wish
NEED: Something required because it is essential. Something very important that you cannot live with out.
What do you need?

If a reader is vigilant and actually reads this passage then I think they stand to take a lot away from Need. It’s a very interesting story, and does pose some very interesting ideas.

The bright spot in this book for me, was the main character Kaylee. Kaylee is a very virtuous heroine. She has a cause and it’s hard to dislike her because she’s so passionate about helping her brother and trying to find him a kidney. Her story is one that we’ve seen before, she’s the sibling who doesn’t match and can’t donate, but putting her story, in the context of this larger conspiracy works without making her seem too maudlin.

Is the concept of the book a little farfetched? Yes, probably. But can readers walk away with something useful. Definitely.

My one qualm with this book is the ending. While everything does wrap up nicely, it is a little saccharine. It feels like the ending of a Nickelodeon or Disney film, and I find it a little unbelievable that the story of NEED didn’t reach outside the small microcosm we were inhabiting.

Still, I liked the concept overall, and would recommend this to anyone who wants a thought-provoking but simple read.


Need by Joelle Charbonneau is now available wherever books are sold. You can purchase the audiobook through Audible. If you would prefer a physical book you can find a copy at Book Depository, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local independent bookseller.

You can add Need to your Goodreads list here.


Published by Lauren Busser

Lauren Busser is a fiction writer and essayist. She is an associate editor at Tell-Tale TV, where she writes about all things tv. She has had fiction appear in five : 2 : one magazine’s #thesideshow and her nonfiction has appeared in Bitch Media and The Hartford Courant. You can find her talking about tv, film, and knitting on Twitter @LaurenBusser.

6 thoughts on “Audiobook Review: Need by Joelle Charbonneau

  1. I read this a couple years ago and I found it pretty alright! I really love thrillers so I think that helped me enjoy it a bit more. I thought it had some interesting intentions behind the psychology of how far some people will go, but it definitely wasn’t a stand out or anything haha. Great review!!


    1. Yea it was definitely an interesting concept, so I would recommend it if someone wants a thriller that may make them think, but it definitely doesn’t make my list of favorite books.


  2. I pretty much agree, it didn’t rock my world but I enjoyed it? And like you said it did have something interesting to say about wants vs needs,especially vis a vis high school.


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